7 Promotional Stunts by Musicians That Backfired Hilariously
There is a reason famous people are surrounded with a thick wall of publicists and advisers: most celebrities need an entire army just to save them from themselves. But for some reason, musicians never get the memo on this, judging by how often their spectacularly bad ideas make the wrong kind of headlines:
Macklemore "Accidentally" Dresses as a Jewish Stereotype
Even if you hate Macklemore, you have to admit he tries to be one of the good guys -- for instance, he released a culturally sensitive rap about the gay community and how stereotypes just lead us to hatred and misunderstandings. In the wake of all this commercial success and positive media coverage, Macklemore must have been sitting in his home wondering, "How can I fuck all this up?"
And boy did he find the perfect solution:
You were already all set before the Nazi salute, dude.
That's the compulsive Mackler himself dressed in full Jewface for a surprise show in Seattle this year. How do you go from rapping against hurtful stereotypes to actually embodying one? Well, if you believe Macklemore's version, it all happened due to a series of unhappy coincidences, which if true would be enough to convince anyone that Yahweh is real (and hates rap music).
Macklemore says that, since it was a secret concert and all, he had the idea to surprise the audience by showing up in a disguise. Without any specific look in mind, he went to a local costume store and bought some fake beards, mustaches, and "a big witch nose," which he combined with a wig he had from a previous tour (presumably from his time in a Beatles cover band). Coincidence #1 would be the fact that these random items just happened to form an image straight out of the imagination of a Stormfront forumgoer; #2 is that in all of Macklemore's entourage, there wasn't a single sane human being to tell him what he looked like.
They did talk him out of wearing that "extremely small beanie" he found in a synagogue.
Mackleberg then revealed himself to the audience and played a few songs, including his hit "Thrift Shop" -- you know, that catchy tune about how buying stuff for cheap is "fucking awesome." Apparently, the rapper didn't even suspect that this might have been a poor choice (or several) until he found out he'd pissed off at least one influential Jewish leader:
Could be worse -- he could trick us into thinking he's got a shot with Katherine Heigl.
While some have poked holes in his story, we're just gonna go ahead and continue believing that we live in a universe that sometimes conspires against Macklemore for no reason.
Big Daddy Kane Hates Gay People, Unwittingly Poses Nude for Gay Magazine
Rap music and blatant homophobia have always gone hand-in-hand, but in a totally platonic, macho way. Take rap royalty Big Daddy Kane, who once said:
The Big Daddy Law is anti-faggot
That means no homosexuality
So how exactly did he do that? Why, by posing for Playgirl magazine. Yep, that Playgirl.
We're afraid you're gonna have to buy that issue to see the full butt.
The photo shoot was entirely Big Daddy's idea, because he felt he was already well-known in the rap world and "wanted to expose himself to others" ... literally. In his own words: "I think that this will increase my popularity and make a closer relationship with me and female fans." What Kane apparently didn't know is that, according to Playgirl's editor-in-chief at the time, up to 50 percent of their readers were homosexual males. Another large percentage was likely men who "only bought them for the articles."
You can see why that might be a problem for someone who has gone on the record to say he doesn't want any dudes checking out his junk. Hey, maybe that's why he shoved it in a box of chocolates.
He was fucking boxes decades before Timberlake. A true visionary.
Unfortunately, the public at large decided they didn't want a Taste of Chocolate (no, seriously, that's the name of the album) and it became Kane's first record not to reach certified gold status. As consolation, we're pretty sure the accompanying VHS tape, featuring more of Big Daddy's butt and other body parts, became very popular in the back room of video stores everywhere.
L.A. Band Blocks a Freeway for an Impromptu Concert, Gets Sued
Before October 2010, Imperial Stars was just another unknown rap-pop band from Los Angeles. After October 2010, they finally became known to the world ... albeit as "those shitheads who illegally hijacked a freeway for a moronic stunt."
While other people were trying to get to work or just braving the L.A. morning traffic for funsies, the members of Imperial Stars drove their tour bus to U.S. Route 101, a major L.A. freeway, parked it across three lanes, and offered an impromptu concert from the top of the vehicle, to the delight of their fans (read: no one).
They're still the most dignified example of a rap-pop band known to man.
The objective of this stunt? Raising awareness for child homelessness, of course. Yep, it had nothing to do with promoting their single "Traffic Jam 101," which includes the lyric "Yeah, we stoppin' traffic now" and whose video depicts the band awkwardly dancing on that same freeway.
The lead singer is now legally obligated to wear that hat everywhere, as punishment.
The "homeless children" cause is so important to them, in fact, that they don't even mention it on their website (but they do mention opening for LMFAO). Despite playing for only like 10 minutes, the band managed to hold back traffic for six miles and delay drivers for up to an hour. This was partly because at some point the driver of the bus fled the scene and took the keys with him, presumably after finding out what "rap-pop" actually sounds like. As a result, the band just stayed put and kept playing even as police cars and fire trucks surrounded them.
Still waiting on that fame, guys.
After the cops mercifully got them to stop playing, the group had an impressive amount of charges levied against them, including resisting or delaying a police officer, unlawful assembly, and being way too old to have the same hairdo as the guy from Workaholics (without a permit). They were eventually ordered to fork over $39,000 to the city of L.A., but with all the international fame and fortune that surely came after this stunt, they can probably afford it.
"Sorry, we don't know any songs called 'Come Down Right Now or We'll Shoot.' How about 'Freebird'?"
Metal Band Sprays Club With Real Blood, Club Shuts Down
It's not uncommon for fans of the more hardcore genres of music to end up covered with bruises and cuts after a concert, what with all the mosh pits and spiky clothing accessories. So, if you're part of the cleaning crew, you know you might have to remove a few bloodstains from the floor; it's part of working in show business. This is still ridiculous, though:
"Last time we're booking the Dixie Chicks."
Yep, that's real animal blood decorating a venue after a particularly lively concert. The Shining re-creation above happened when a metal band called Young and in the Way was playing a show at a North Carolina brewery/restaurant and decided to spray gallons and gallons of pig blood everywhere. Normally, a band will use some sort of prop blood for a stunt like this, and even more normally, they'll give their hosts some sort of heads-up that they're about to repaint the establishment. Young and in the Way had a name to live up to, though, so they did neither of those things.
"Middle-Aged and Perfectly Accommodating was taken, so ..."
After that, the blood-soaked band just grabbed their gear and took off, presumably to spook some poor McDonald's drive-thru employee in the middle of the night. In the wake of all this blood everywhere, the brewery had to close down for three days while they called health departments, cleaning crews, and hopefully an exorcist or two. The backroom stage part of the brewery closed permanently due to this stunt, because it turns out that cleaning up a small pool's worth of blood is the sort of thing you want to do only once in a lifetime. The venue's doorman said, "I just lost a job and Asheville has just lost another venue."
And patrons have lost any peace of mind when ordering a red ale.
Judging by the band's videos (might wanna turn your speakers way down if you're going to click there), being covered in blood at all times is sort of their whole shtick, but it's unclear if ruining livelihoods comes with that or if it's something they do for fun. Another thing that's unclear is where they got all that blood, so we should probably shut up now before we piss them off.
Rapper Attempts a Three-Story Dive Onto Fans, Fans Let Him Fall
Crowd-surfing is a perfectly valid way to connect with your fans and possibly get your wallet stolen, but here's a tip: before you attempt it, make sure you have fans in the audience. Otherwise you might end up like rapper George Watsky, who, despite sounding like your dad's accountant, boasts some cool cap-feathers like poetry slamming his way onto HBO, making multiple appearances on the Epic Rap Battles of History series, and rapping really fast.
He also loves jumping from tall places. Like this:
He's the dude in green failing at gravity.
Above is Watsky dressed as a Ninja Turtle, wowing a crowd with his lyrical flow before concluding that his ability to fall on top of people was way cooler. Having somehow eluded death, Watsky felt emboldened to try another daredevil crowd-surf one month later during the Vans Warped Tour. Since houses are hard to come by on festival stages, though, he had to make do with what he had: namely, the stage's lighting rig.
We're getting Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark flashbacks.
That circled blob of Darwin Award is Watsky atop 35-foot-high rafters during a London performance. Consumed by excitement, he climbed the structure and shouted, "Have you got my back?" to the 7,000 concert-goers below, seemingly forgetting that he was at a freaking music festival -- he could ask, "Do you guys like Josef Mengele?" and still get a hundred drunken yeahs. So he jumped ... only to find out that, nope, they didn't have his back. Or any part of his body.
Big deal -- starving coyotes do that all the time, and you never hear them complain.
The audience instinctively parted like the Red Sea, leaving only two people and a bunch of concrete floor to cushion Watsky's landing. The flesh-and-bone collision left one woman with a broken arm, one man with an injured back, and Watsky bruised but in good health (physically, anyway). The thing is, the stunt might have actually worked if it was Eminem or some other big name doing it, as opposed to some guy festival-goers didn't know existed until 15 minutes earlier.
And who probably still think his stage name is MC Megasus.
Watsky has since apologized profusely to his victims and promised he'll cut it out with the jumps for a while. Don't worry, dude -- we're sure you'll reach "I'd literally risk breaking my neck for him" levels of fame eventually.
Megadeth's Dave Mustaine Accidentally Supports the IRA During a Concert
There are a few options for the musical frontman touring a region contending with geopolitical strife: A) mumble some platitudes about how love is a finer thing than exploding one another; B) study the situation and arrive at an informed, nuanced position, and then keep it to yourself; C) get wasted and throw yourself ass-backwards into the debate. Guess which one Megadeth's Dave Mustaine went for at their 1988 gig in Northern Ireland?
Reminder that this was the guy who was too much of a douchebag even for Metallica.
Mustaine was getting cheerfully hammered backstage at the Antrim Forum when security presented him with a guy they'd busted selling bootleg T-shirts. Confronted about leeching the band's sweet merch profits, he protested that he was just trying to raise cash for "the cause" -- meaning the IRA, otherwise known as the second-biggest importers of explosions to the United Kingdom after Hitler.
Mustaine, whose knowledge of Ireland apparently ended with the majesty of Guinness, asked about this "cause," and his new friend told him it was all about bringing equality between Catholics and Protestants (omitting the "through car bombs" part).
"Also, it's about ethics in video game journalism."
Some might've sought an opinion from a source more authoritative than some dude pimping knock-off Megadeth shirts, but this was good enough for Mustaine. After dragging his sloppy ass on stage it came time to introduce "Anarchy in the U.K.," and he had the genius idea to use his new political insight to work the crowd. "This one's for the cause!" he slurred. "Give Ireland back to the Irish!" It was only then that Mustaine realized he had lobbed a steaming turd into this happily mingled punchbowl (rock gigs in Northern Ireland weren't segregated). Some of the crowd cheered, some booed, and plenty must've face-palmed as fights broke out.
Things were getting distinctly rioty when Megadeth tugged their collars awkwardly and got the hell out of there, later having to flee town under police escort in a bulletproof bus. But hey, at least Mustaine felt bad enough to write "Holy Wars," about his experience as a clueless shit-stirring tourist. He's since laid off the booze and proved he doesn't need alcohol to voice terrible opinions during a concert. Truly, an inspiration.
Ashanti's Label Fakes a Controversy, Creates a Real One
Sometimes, the most innocuous songs get promoted with the most inexplicably bizarre videos -- like Ashanti's "The Way That I Love You," an average R&B tune that the magic of MTV turned into a rage-fueled snuff fantasy about a woman who stabs her unfaithful paramour to death. That would have been weird enough as it is, but Ashanti's stabalicious video was only one part of a larger murder-themed marketing campaign that went to some ... pretty dark places:
Is this social commentary or just sociopathic?
That's from a bogus news story that Ashanti's people published on her site, because apparently they get their viral-marketing tips from Charles Manson. The clip claimed Ashanti's single had inspired a wave of copycat killings perpetrated by someone called "Commercial Hip Hop," who was out to kill black children over their foolishness -- hence the blood graffiti above. Ah, now it makes sense!
What will never make sense, however, is the fact that Ashanti also agreed to promote her music with murder-themed e-cards called "gotcha-grams," which encouraged potential psychopaths to mail their exes fake news stories about their own deaths. The stories included the town you lived in, the exact weapon that killed you, and, of course, your name written in blood.
How do you attach a lock of your hair and a decapitated doll, though? Very shoddy.
Ashanti's fake moral outrage was a complete success ... in the sense that it created a real moral outrage when a group of parents and religious figures decided they were having approximately none of that shit. They protested outside Universal/Motown offices and even went so far as threatening to protest an Ashanti performance scheduled for the NBA Finals. The whole campaign was axed, although we're disturbed to report that its perpetrators remain on the loose.
For more people who really botched things up, check out 5 Corporate Promotions That Ended in (Predictable) Disaster. And then check out The 21 Most Horrifying Interpretations of Famous Song Lyrics.